Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Publishers: How Not To Respond To A Review

Link here.

Look for Mr. Goodman's comments at the bottom.

Yipes.

Contrast this with how the Evil Hat guys handled Pundit's review of Spirit of the Century.

35 comments:

HinterWelt said...

Your review of the reviews sucks!!!!

;)

On a serious note, the publisher seldom "wins" any such conflict. You can be absolutely correct, be polite about it and the reviewer totally wrong and ignorant and still look the fool. It can be trying.

That is why I often suggest to publishers to pick reviewers based on thier track record as good reviewers. No, not stacking the deck or anything but if you get a reviewer who is thorough, sticks to the facts and reviews the book (not the one similar to it that he read tree months ago or one that reads the first page out of each chapter) then good or bad, it will be accurate.

Bill

Zachary The First said...

@Bill: I agree, no good can come of that combative type of display. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong in trying to correct or clarify, but do it courteously. A vague type of aggressive attack doesn’t do much. I guarantee Rob and Fred picked up some sales from Pundit’s review because they did just that.

Good comment, thanks!

As a publisher, I don't want to put you in a position of second-guessing, but how would you have handled such a situation?

WalkerP said...

The publisher should admit fault, give some explanation as to why there are so many regional and geographical errors and then say "thanks for the review. We hope that others can overlook some of the geographical shortcomings to find the exciting adventure and we'll definitely work harder to try and improve our regional accuracy."

Hell if it was in pdf form, you could just ask the reviewer to fix all the errors, give him a small editor's fee and re-release it fixed. Then everybody is happy.

Of course, we all know Goodman's position on the pdf market...

No, he doesn't come off well at all there.

HinterWelt said...

Zach,
Well, first it depends, is the comment factually wrong? Is the reviewer mistaken about the geography comment? Is he really upset over the use of "glen"? If it truly is a faulty review then you need to proceed carefully and courteously but firmly.

Similar situation for me with a map for Roma by Clayton Bunce. He screwed up the Thames and had it emptying into the wrong firth. It did not affect the game since this was an insert (read the big map) as opposed to the reference maps inside. My maps were right but I had missed the errors on the end sheets.
The thread is here:
http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?p=4217399#post4217399

Yeah, I could have handled that better. I admit reviews are hard for me to deal with. In the end, I own the error as it is is my book and Clayton was a freelancer in my employ. He had a really good rep at the time (right before his major collapse) and the Roma Map may well have been his last project before that. Still, I think I comport myself in a friendly and informative manner in that thread (for the most part). It is a good example though, of the often super human forbearance publishers are expected to have and how I personally can come up short.

Zachary The First said...

Well, you know, I have self-published all of one product, and I can see how reviews could be hard to take at times. People put a lot of labor into these products, and its hard to have them critiqued—especially when you think something is wrong or incorrect. But that's part of the hobby.

@Walker: Refresh my memory on pdfs with Goodman? Was it his comments on his Grand Tour of Gaming Stores a while back? Because I’m not remembering specifically.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Goodman games publishes some nice stuff. I have enjoyed the reviews of product, over at Grognardia. JM always seems to find a way to velvet glove any criticism of a product, but still give people a good sense of whether that product is for them.

Zachary The First said...

@Paladin: I agree, Goodman has done some very nice products. And definitely some reviewers are less incendiary than others.

Bonemaster said...

@HinterWelt - On the suggestion of pick reviewers based on track records, that assumes I take it that the reviewer in question was given a copy of the product to review.

Having released no products, but have received criticism from readers of my blog, I can only say that any publisher needs to be thick skinned when it comes to people reviewing their product. I try to take nothing that someone says about something I wrote personally. It seems Goodman Games forgot that here. If anything, saying nothing would have been better than what they did say. Of course part of the fallout here is that Goodman games then had a very public tweet on Twitter that really made people ask the questions, "What the Hell is this about?" and "What are they talking about?". I have to say if it wasn't for that, I would have not even known the review was out there. I guess, it just goes to prove you should never do anything while your angry.

Zachary The First said...

@Bonemaster: That’s right. About a day or so ago, there was some Goodman Games griping vaguely about what it appears now was the cited review. That didn’t help. Perhaps taking a night to sleep on this would have been good.

Wyatt said...

Now watch Goodman keep digging his own pit instead of just retracting his insult of the reviewer over twitter. Classy people, those Goodman folks!

Zachary The First said...

@Wyatt: I hadn’t seen anything new on it. Is he still digging?

Brian said...

I'm certainly no industry insider, but from what I've heard, Mr. Goodman has a pretty good reputation. If that's true, this certainly seems a bit out of character, doesn't it?

Gleichman said...

I used to do reviews back in the day, and posted a few on Rpg.net for some reason.

One for for Beyond the Mountains of Madness, and I pegged it for some very incorrect information on how firearms are to be used in extreme cold.

That rather geeky point was extremely important to the module both in what would happen in the course of the adventure and as a reflection upon how much else could be wrong with the 'background'.

The author responsed and responsed well IMO. He admitted the error, and we had a nice exchange about some of the good features of the module.

HinterWelt said...

@Zach - Yeah, thick skin is good. However, it takes just one slip, one bad day, one gamer with unbridled nerdrage over the proper use of "they" on a day when you deal with umpteen other much more dire things, just one slip and you are often branded the anti-christ of game designers.

Joe is a decent guy. He was before this. His track record has always been pretty good by me. I am not going to praise him for what he did but I will cut him some slack and not paint him as some frothing mad man worse than Hitler.

Would I have handled it differently? Possibly, but maybe not if some reviewer caught me on a bad day. Even the Holy God Who Can Do No Wrong Fred Motherloving Hicks has bad days. ;)

@Bonemaster - Yeah, that is the presumption since you really cannot do anything about folks who just pick up your book and review it. Personally, anything short of thanking and moving on is probably not going to work in the favor of the publisher. Even if the reviewer is dead wrong, you are probably ahead of the game to just let it go. That was a VERY hard lesson for me to learn.

Zachary The First said...

Yes, Joe Goodman has a pretty good rep, and Goodman makes some fine products. It probably was a bad day or couple of days.

Matt Finch said...

I don't think Goodman flubbed it all that badly. It was a weak way to approach it, but hardly a disaster.

Okay, my confirm word was "buttparde." I just noticed that, and I am so not going there. You'd think "butt" would be a letter combination it wouldn't use...

Zachary The First said...

@Matt: I wouldn’t call it a disaster, but neither is it precisely a great moment, and I think it was poorly done—not so much the defending of the product, which is fine, but rather the way and manner in which it was done. I was highlighting it as an approach I would think would not serve many publishers well.

Wow. Word Verification is feeling bawdy today!

Rob Conley said...

Hey at least Goodman have the guy saying that is module was and I quote

This one feels like someone ramming boiled oysters down your throat at mcdonalds.

http://www.rpgnow.com/product_reviews_info.php?&reviews_id=16591&products_id=24593&it=1

That all I got say about it.

BTW appreciate your review on Badabaskor.

Zachary The First said...

Not a problem, Rob. I know there's some products I still need to review over there, but I know I nabbed that one. :)

Zachary The First said...

By the way, Rob, you, Bill, and Clash (among others) need to look at the campaign hexmap I did the other day. Find your name? :)

WalkerP said...

Here's Joe Goodman on PDF's in his discussion on the success of 4e: "Third, speaking as a businessman, hobby stores are by far the largest market for games. The online market (including print, PDF, and POD) simply can't compete. As Goodman Games has matured into one of the standard stocklist items for typical game stores, I have seen my overall sales base grow steadily while online sales have dwindled. Online sales now make up a tiny fraction of Goodman Games sales. Yes, PDF sales are the fastest-growing sales segment, that is true, but the hobby market is HUGE compared to the online market - orders of magnitude larger. If you support retailers, they will support you, and that effort pays off tenfold. (There's a reason Wizards could pull their entire PDF backlist without blinking an eye. Those of us with good retail distribution are among the few observers to understand this.)"

So not directly critical, but pretty dismissive.

From what I'm reading from various Brits, the complaints about the geographical mistakes are very valid to a British audience. It seems particularly bull-headed or prideful to ignore this as a publisher when it could be so easy to say "whoops we didn't realize those things were so important, but now we do, thanks for letting us know."

I mean why fight it?

Zachary The First said...

@Walker: You also need to look closely at the map. :)

Thanks for the reference. I do recall that part now.

I think if the module claims some level of research or accuracy in the matter of geography, then fails in that aspects, it's a valid critique. Even if it was not, there are a couple of other better ways to respond.

Rob Lang said...

As a Brit, I would not be able to run this with my group. You can't suspend disbelief with that many errors. I don't need to playtest it to know my players will baulk at Tigers in Africa, Atlantic Liners docking in London (the Thames is shallow up by London) and worst of all - applying the Grid system to the city. Although the use of the word 'glen' was unfortunate, it's actually entirely wrong. Stone Henge is on the top of a moor, a very windy, exposed moor. Not in a valley. If you're going to reskin America then go for it but don't go advertising as a game set in London, or England because it really isn't.

So much effort went into the book, why not make sure the details were right? Seems either sloppy or arrogant. And with the manner in which he replied, I'm sad to see that it might be the latter. Goodwill on the internet dissolves pretty fast when you make a prat out of yourself.

Tim Shorts said...

Goodman may have a good rep and my miniscule time dealing with him was always positive, but this past year he's had a few missteps that is taking large chunks out of his rep. I'm not sure what the cause is or why a simple review would bother him. Not everyone is going to like your product simple as that and they don't even need a good reason.

Good map btw. I caught a few of your 'inserts', but I missed a few.

JoetheLawyer said...

Might I just take this opportunity to point out again:

http://wondrousimaginings.blogspot.com/2009/06/really-funny-comment-on-joe-goodmans.html

Zachary The First said...

Oh dear. I had quite forgotten about that by Alzurius.

HinterWelt said...

I may be misreading posters here but honestly, the print distribution really does dwarf PDF, online sales and any variation of that. I am not saying I do not value it but it is at least an order of magnitude larger if not more than online sales. And, no, that is not just for me. Any publisher doing print sales will tell you likewise.

Now, that is not a slam against PDFs. It is the truth of a small (and growing) market. The blunt truth is that the digital market is not mature yet. We need a serious palm sized reader (yeah, yeah, kindle sony and the like are getting there) and the distribution to handle the volume. I spend a lot of time on this stuff and as much as I love it, I would go broke if all I did was sell digital.

FASERIP said...

Ehh, at least he's not referring to himself in third person again.

Stu said...

That exchange makes me sad. I own a few Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures for DnD4E, and I think they're great.

That being said, I've never actually run them, so my opinion must be invalid :-)

Responding to a negative review with belligerence is a monumentally bad move.

If a publisher is going to respond to a review at all, he should say something like, "thank you for the review, we'll take your criticisms to heart and strive to improve our products in the future."

As it is, he only damaged his company's good reputation.

Is it possible that wasn't him. Maybe a sockpuppet? I can't see a good businessman doing something that amateur.

Fuchs said...

I think Goodman is quite wrong when he dismisses online sales for print. Amazon is a big dsitribution channel by itself.

WalkerP said...

@hinterwelt Totally agree. There is no doubt the pdf market is a tiny percentage of the overall market (but growing). The difference between what you said and what Goodman says is this:

"Those of us with good retail distribution are among the few observers to understand this"

It's like he believes he is privy to some special knowledge that makes his words profoundly more correct than any other dweeb on the internet. I fear this attitude may be spilling over into other areas as well.

Zachary The First said...

Well, I think very few things set gamers off more than perceived arrogance from a gaming company or representative.

HinterWelt said...

Like a company taking its own sweet time sending out play test copies and coffee for a certain blogger who graciously agreed to try both? That bastard!!! ;)

Zachary The First said...

Heh—I’m trying both in the *same session*!

lessthanpleased said...

In all fairness, the RPG blogosphere is a fairly tiny and insignificant corner of the RPG market as of right now (and probably always will be, just as political bloggers comprise a fairly insignificant share of the total voting public). Though it's never a best practice to piss off your customers, I have trouble believing that pissing off the entire RPG blogosphere would hurt Goodman's bottom line at anything other than the margins.

The vast majority of people in gaming stores or chain booksellers don't read RPG blogs - so this is a pretty safe demographic to piss off if a publisher of Goodman's size is having a bad day. If a smaller press posted the same tweet, however, I suspect it would be the business equivalent of seppuku.

That being said, this was definitely not the smartest thing to do.